Book re­marks – Life on the Great North­ern Penin­sula

The Compass - - Editorial - Harold Walters Book Re­marks Harold Walters lives Hap­pily Ever Af­ter in Dunville. He thinks it’s cool to live in the only Cana­dian province with its own time zone. He does not think it cool to live in a province that taxes books. Reach him at gh­wal­ters663@

Adrian Payne, author of Life on the Great North­ern Penin­sula [Flanker Press] was born in a time when “a man was judged by the size of his wood­pile in the spring.”

Although I ar­rived on this planet six or seven years later than Adrian, a man’s wood­pile still was weighed in the bal­ance when I was a bay-boy. Not only did the size of the wood­pile mat­tered but also the neat­ness of how it was … well, piled up, stacked.

Ah, those stacks, es­pe­cially af­ter the wood was sawed-off and piled up in tiers like fortresses. I frig­gin’ hated them… … be­cause it was my job dur­ing sum­mer while Pappy was gone away to work as a car­pen­ter in St. John’s, to lug the dried, sawed and split junks into the wood­house and re-stack them un­til the wood­house was stogged to the rafters.

I hated lug­ging in wood al­most as much as I hated mak­ing the hay, a sum­mer ac­tiv­ity that in this mem­oir Adrian Payne claims was “a fun-filled time for us chil­dren.”

I can’t agree with you about that, Adrian ol’ man, even though mid-day lunches of Le­mon Crys­tal and pot­ted meat sand­wiches were de­li­cious in­ter­ludes.

Hay­mak­ing was a hot, itchy oc­ca­sion and the only time I al­most had fun jump­ing down the hay in the loft I skivvered my nog­gin on a nail in the hayloft hatch and ripped off a flap of scalp that would have made a coup-count­ing red­skin proud.

Hay­mak­ing was not fun. It was frig­gin’-well hate­ful.

All the same, as a fel­low who’d read some­thing I’d scrib­bled once said to me re­gard­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties in our bay-boy youths, “Harry, b’y, you lived my life.”

So, Adrian, b’y, to some de­gree you lived my life.

For in­stance, per­pe­trat­ing acts of cru­elty [?] on star­va­tion grub.

.......... Con­sider gull glees, baited hooks tailed out for glut­tonous gulls to glutch down and get snagged in their tongues or throats. De­spite the fact that “gulls were a real treat for Sun­day din­ner for a lot of peo­ple”, catch­ing star­va­tion grub in such a fash­ion would surely be in­ter­preted an act of cru­elty nowa­days.

For frig sake, a young­ster caught tail­ing out gull glees would be en­rolled im­me­di­ately for psy­chi­atric coun­selling and some kind of ‘pathic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

As would young­sters who mis­treated sculpins which I may have done one bad spring when the ice was in and sculpin tails fried up with scrun­cheons helped ap­pease our fam­ished guts.

How ex­actly did I bar­barize sculpins?

I’d be stund to an­swer that ques­tion, eh b’ys? Who knows the statute of lim­i­ta­tions on sculpin abuse?

Adrian and his buddy Char­lie were warned to stay out of Char­lie’s grand­fa­ther’s hay­field be­cause they would beat down the grass and make it hard to mow. Char­lie’s grand­fa­ther threat­ened to sic The Ranger on them if they dis­obeyed him.

Per­haps in hopes of hin­der­ing im­mi­nent hate­ful hay­mak­ing, I some­times tram­pled through Pappy’s grass garden de­spite be­ing warned that The Moun­tie would come down from Clarenville and whip me off to Re­form School.

Once, rush­ing to fin­ish saw­ing off fire­wood, Adrian shuffed too hard on his buck­saw and ripped a two-inch gash across his fin­ger. “I still have the scar to­day,” he says.

Have a look at this left hand of mine. See the scar in the meat be­low the knuckle of my in­dex fin­ger? I ripped it with a buck­saw.

Un­like Adrian who was scrav­el­ling to fin­ish his chore so he could go to his sis­ter’s wed­ding, I was sim­ply a stund bay-boy who scoated a buck­saw up a tree to saw off the top be­fore felling the tree.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Why? . . . . . . . . . Stump stund. Adrian once had a dog named Spot.

I still have a dog named spot, although mine is ce­ramic. Mammy bought him for me from a ped­dler shortly af­ter Con­fed­er­a­tion pupped [!]. Spot has al­ways been faith­ful and to­day he sits pa­tiently atop a stereo speaker. I’ve con­vinced an im­pres­sion­able grand­daugh­ter that years ago, when Spot grew old and sick, I turned him to stone. Truly.

Lis­ten, I’m not go­ing to bother rem­i­nisc­ing about head lice for fear of gen­er­at­ing memories itchier than hay­mak­ing.

Adrian Payne has writ­ten this mem­oir so his grand­chil­dren will know and ap­pre­ci­ate what life on the Great North­ern Penin­su­lar was like when he was young. I com­mend his en­deavor but… … but, Adrian, don’t try to con­vince your grand­chil­dren that hay­mak­ing was fun.

Thank you for read­ing.

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